Canonical, Unison, Ubuntu Attack Microsoft ExchangeUnison Technologies, with an assist from Canonical and Ubuntu Linux, says it is "launching a major threat to Microsoft Exchange." Hmmm. The VAR Guy has heard similar grandstanding before from a range of companies. But Unison has caught our resident blogger's attention a few times. Here's why.

Unison ranks among the few unified communications companies that has embraced Ubuntu -- Canonical's fast-growing Linux distribution. In its latest attack against Microsoft, Unison is now launching a "free, sponsor-supported unified communications platform."

Huh? Does that mean users will need to listen to commercials between phone calls? Actually, The VAR Guy has to concede: He's not sure how the "free" offer works. Travel delays have prevented our resident blogger from speaking with Unison directly.

But here's what The VAR Guy has heard so far:
  • The new, sponsor-supported version of Unison can save a small business $100,000 versus a Microsoft solution, according to a Unison spokesman.
  • Any organization can download the Linux and Windows-based software at www.unison.com, then deploy it without needing to buy licenses.
  • Unison runs on-premise, on a Linux server behind the firewall, in contrast to “SaaS-only” hosted solutions like Google Apps
  • Unison CEO Michael Choupak claims the solution offers the combined power of applications like Microsoft Exchange and a Cisco PBX. Hmmm. That's another lofty claim. Unison, it seems, would prefer to rattle two IT giants for the price of one.
  • The first Unison sponsors are Canonical and Intermedia, the New York-based hosted business applications provider.
  • Unison combines e-mail, telephone, instant messaging, calendars and contacts into a single system, the company claims.
Of course, The VAR Guy does have to offer Microsoft and Cisco some equal time here. Scrappy start-ups have attempted to knock off Microsoft Exchange for more than a decade. But we've all seen the corporate email market share figures: Exchange still dominates. And companies that attempt to disrupt Cisco often short circuit somewhere along the way. Oh, and we all know how software companies that promote "free" solutions often struggle to generate profits.

Still, Unison is declaring war against the unified communications establishment. The VAR Guy will be watching to see if solutions providers join the cause.

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